I have had many conversations with people about attending Church services. One of the most common struggles we all seem to have is the hypocrisy that seems to be evident throughout the Church on Sunday morning ESPECIALLY during Holy Week. We all claim to know the sins of others, so when we see them in Church reverently bowing and singing, we accuse them of hypocrisy. Problem is, things are never quite as them seem.
On the first day of Holy Week, the Church reminds us of the blessing promised by God when we spend time waiting for Him. “Behold the Bridegroom comes in the middle of the night and blessed is the man whom He finds being vigilant.” Are you being vigilant?
Churches during Holy Week are more filled than at any other time during the year. We sit in dark Churches, singing and hearing hymns about the imminent coming of Christ and the blessing promised to those who are prepared to greet Him. But with blessings come responsibilities.
In ancient times, a king would ride his horse bravely lead his army into battle. Then, after defeating his enemy, the king would victoriously enter the capitol city to claim his new territory. The symbol of the king riding a horse both into battle and home to victory was recognizable to anyone who lived within the protection of a king. The entire city population would gather to cheer on their king.
All Christians recognize Christ as the Word of God. The Gospel of John begins with, “In the beginning was the Word,” speaking of the eternal existence of Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, and the we know the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God. As we heard just over forty days ago, God spoke the entire creation into existence. The opening verses of Genesis continually reiterates, “And God said….and it was so.”
Our Great Lenten Journey ends today with a view toward death. Great Lent has been our opportunity to die to the world through our Lenten disciplines. For forty days (longer actually) we have fasted with a strictness that is unique to Great Lent. Even if you just started today, fasting is a form of death. But that death leads to heaven, not a tomb.
Normally you receive our Daily Lenten Journey early in the morning, but the past couple days have been a bit hectic. We were not prepared to send our daily post this morning, but as they say better late then never! Here is today’s post, and it IS better late than never to start you Great Lenten Journey, even if tomorrow is the last day of Great Lent.
For weeks Great Lent has been forcing us to focus on how to live our life. Whether it be fasting, extra prayers, helping the poor, or which services to attend this week, we have been forced to make choices. Of course, the Church would prefer us to choose to attend services tonight, but free will allow for us to choose. If we are interested in growing closer to Christ, then we accept that the choices of Great Lent help us to learn to choose to live as Christ would want us to live.
It has become popular to discount the Great Lenten journey with slogans half inspired by the Holy Scriptures and half inspired by our selfish desires. All the talk about prayer, fasting, and attending Church services during Great Lent, tends to bring out the ‘experts’ about what God ‘really’ wants from our lives.
By now, if you’re like every other Orthodox Christian, you can recall at least one if not several examples of where or how you have failed during Great Lent this year. You learned, probably weeks ago, that just because you say you want to fast this year, doesn’t mean that you will succeed every day of Great Lent. There are forty days of fasting, just counting the actual days of Great Lent, let alone the days before and after that are also days of fasting. But just because you may have failed once or twice, or a dozen times, doesn’t mean you have failed.
When James and John asked Christ, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory,” Jesus responded with a challenge, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Mark 10.37-38) What the disciples were hoping for glory was not quite what Jesus had in mind.